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Rates rises: huge hikes for some council areas

By Clare Weir

Ratepayers in Limavady will be shelling out more than any others this year, while those in Dungannon and South Tyrone will have no extra cost imposed.

Limavady Borough Council has upped its district rate to 0.40 pence in the pound — a 7.57% increase — to the anger of a local councillor who said it was “unjustified” and a “disaster” for the area.

Ratepayers in Londonderry will be paying out 0.39 pence, followed by ratepayers in Armagh who will be forking out 0.38 pence.

In Magherafelt residents will see the biggest increase in their rates — up 8.4% to just over 0.25p. The second highest rise is Belfast (7.85%), followed by Limavady.

Dungannon and South Tyrone council spared residents by imposing a rates freeze. And ratepayers in Moyle, the smallest council area in the country, will see an increase of just 0.03%.

At a time when Northern Ireland remains in a state of recession, when the axe hangs over many jobs, consumers aren’t spending and banks are not lending, Northern Ireland councils could have a tough time defending such hikes in the domestic rate.

Ratepayers in the North West, where the economic situation is particularly dire, will not be happy to see costs creeping up.

Limavady councillor Leslie Cubitt of the United Unionist Coalition said that the rate was “a disaster” and that “the last person leaving should close the door and turn the lights out on Limavady.”

He says he has reduced rent on his own businesses in a bid to help others keep afloat.

“I walked out of the meeting when the rate was struck,” he said. “We are giving £100,000 to the Foyle Ferry, £350,000 back to the Army who have vacated Ballykelly and we are spending millions on sports facilities that no one needs or wants in these tough economic times. We cannot justify this when a people in Moyle hardly pay anything at all.

“Shops are closing left right and centre, homes are being repossessed, it is scary.”

UUP Assembly member Michael Copeland and Deputy Mayor of Castlereagh said the council was “efficient”, adding: “Castlereagh Borough Council is fiscally very prudent and we have applied a number of balances to manage potential rates increases.”

Environment Minister, Edwin Poots has congratulated those bodies which spared ratepayers the worst.

“I commend those councils that have kept increases to a minimum,” he said. “The disparity between the lowest and highest rates in Northern Ireland would indicate that a number of councils should be seeking to deliver high quality services more efficiently.”

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